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Conflict of Interest Law is about Decision Influence, not Just Money.

July 1, 2020 0 comments

Arizona law, A.R.S. §§ 38-501 to -511, as well as the incompatibility doctrine, requires public officers and employees to avoid conflicts of interest that might influence or affect their official conduct. 

Determining whether a conflict of interest exists requires public officers and employees to evaluate statutorily-established standards and exceptions to determine whether their personal interests, or those of certain family members, result in a conflict of interest.

“The object of conflict of interest statutes is to remove or limit the possibility of personal influence which might bear upon an official’s decision.” Yetman v. Naumann, 16 Ariz. App. 314, 317, 492 P.2d 1252, 1255 (1972). Arizona’s conflict of interest laws serve to prevent self-dealing by public officials. Maucher v. City of Eloy, 145 Ariz. 335, 338, 701 P.2d 593, 596 (App. 1985). The financial interests of public officers or employees must not conflict with the unbiased performance of their public duties because “one cannot serve two masters with conflicting interests.” Id. Public officials should avoid situations where their professional or financial concerns might conflict with the unbiased performance of their duties. Id.; see generally United States v. Miss. Valley Generating Co., 364 U.S. 520, 549 (1961) (“The statute is thus directed not only at dishonor, but also at conduct that tempts dishonor. This broad proscription embodies a recognition of the fact that an impairment of impartial judgment can occur in even the most well-meaning men when their personal economic interests are affected by the business they transact on behalf of the Government.”).

The conflict of interest prohibitions “apply to all public officers and employees of incorporated cities or towns, of political subdivisions and of the state and any of its departments, commissions, agencies, bodies or boards.” A.R.S. § 38- 501(A). Essentially, A.R.S. §§ 38-502 through -511 supersede any local charter or local ordinance. A.R.S. § 38-501(B). Any other State statutes on specific conflicts of interest are in addition to the conflict of interest provisions set forth in Title 38. A.R.S. § 38-501(C).

The term “public officer” includes “all elected and appointed officers of a public agency established by charter, ordinance, resolution, state constitution or statute,” regardless of whether they are paid for their services. A.R.S. § 38-502(8). 

Members of advisory commissions, boards, councils, and committees (such as the Health Advisory Council) are public officers as that term is used in the conflict of interest laws. 
Ariz. Att’y Gen. Op. I75-211; see also Ariz. Att’y Gen. Ops. I82-105, I88-014, I89-067. 

All elected officials at the state or local level and directors of state agencies are public officers for the purposes of the conflict of interest laws. 

The members of Arizona’s many regulatory boards are also public officers covered by the conflict of interest laws, whether they are paid for or volunteer their services. A.R.S. § 38-502(6), (8).

Anyone employed “by an incorporated city or town, a political subdivision or the state or any of its departments, commissions, agencies, bodies or boards for remuneration,” whether on a full-time, part-time, or contract basis, is considered an employee for the purposes of the conflict of interest laws. A.R.S. § 38-502(2).

Including consultants.

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